Naxalites have released a photograph of CRPF Cobra commando Rakeshwar Singh Manhas, who was captured by Maoists after a fierce gun battle in Bastar region in Chhattisgarh on April 3 which left 22 security personnel dead.
Manhas was part of a squad that had gone for an anti-Naxal operation in the jungles on the Bijapur and Sukma border on the night of April 2, hours before the ambush.
The photo shows the commando, still in his battle fatigues, squatting on the ground inside an apparent hut, with no Naxalite seen in the frame.
The photograph, being circulated on social media, is of Manhas, who was attached to the 210th CoBRA Battalion of the CRPF.
“We are closely monitoring the situation. All best possible efforts are being made to secure the safe return of the jawan,” Inspector General of Police (Bastar) Sundarraj P said.
On Tuesday, the outlawed CPI(Maoist) issued a statement in Hindi saying its cadres abducted Manhas from the site of the ambush and asked the Chhattisgarh Government to appoint interlocutors to ensure his safe release.
The Government has not reacted to the demand. Police said the authenticity of the Maoist statement is being verified.
In a bid to obtain leads on the whereabouts of Manhas, police are carrying out searches and contacting villagers, social organisations, public representatives and journalists, an officer said on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, tribal activist Soni Sori left for the encounter site on Wednesday to appeal to the Naxalites to release the trooper.
“The Government should have taken some steps by now to secure his release. I cannot wait. I want that jawan should be freed safely for which I am going to the incident site,” Sori told reporters.
In the statement, which was issued in the name of Vikalp, spokesperson of the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee (DKSZC) of Maoists, Naxals had also said that Manhas will be released after the Government names mediators.
“He will remain safe in our captivity till then,” it had said.
The Maoists, however, had not raised any formal demands for the release of the commando.
On Saturday, the gunfight broke out between security forces and ultras between Tekalguda and Jonaguda villages in which 22 troopers were killed and 31 others injured.
Out of the 22, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) lost eight personnel, including seven CoBRA commandos and one jawan of its ‘Bastariya’ battalion, eight from the DRG and six from the Special Task Force.